I know Mother’s Day is coming. But what I’m thinking about today is Father’s Day 2009. What a TOUGH day.
Although our family had always gone to church together that day, 2009 was a different. My spouse didn’t go to church with us anymore, and that day, my two youngest did not want to go to church without their dad. I couldn’t blame them. On top of everything else they were dealing with, how hard to be so young and see everyone else sitting by their dads when my sons knew their dad was headed to prison.
How hard would it be to get up and sing Father’s Day songs…to other dads? I felt for them. I really did. When they both complained they had sore throats (in June), I didn’t even question it. I let them stay home.
But instead of celebrating the father of my children that day, I really struggled inside toward Him. Although I didn’t express it out loud, this is how I felt and what I wrote that day, despite my goal not to hate anyone: “I could hate him for the lies He told and lived for almost two decades, for what He did to his victims, and for all He has done to what was once our family. But the hardest thing I face is not about any of that. How am I ever NOT going to hate him for what He has done to our children? This day is just a reminder to me of all that. I feel He deserves absolutely nothing.”
But what I felt and what I did were two different things.
I needed to do what was best for my children. I had to show them a good example. I had to model what I thought was the right behavior. I had to practice what I had always preached.
I had to choose NOT to hate.
I wished Him a “Happy Father’s Day” and I spent a little of the practically non-existent cash on small gifts from my two youngest children. I suggested my daughter bake a dessert her dad loved as her “gift” to Him. It was the right thing to do: for Him (his last Father’s Day for many years, probably) and surely for my children.
Prior to the day, one of my older children came to me and said, “You aren’t going to do anything for dad for Father’s Day, are you?”
I replied that I would help any of them celebrate their dad in whatever way we could think of and manage. When asked what they planned they replied, “Nothing. He deserves nothing after all he has done. And he did NOTHING for you on Mother’s Day.” (But that’s another blog post.)
I acknowledged that child’s feelings and told that child whatever they felt and whatever they decided, was the right choice and I would support them in that. But I told them for the two younger kids, helping them honor their dad was the right thing…for them.
I don’t know what the experts say about that. I certainly am not one. But my instinct was that in situations like ours, or divorce situations or any other situations the parents cause and their children have no choice in what takes place, the children HAVE to be free to feel what they feel, and to be validated in what they feel–whatever that is–and that whatever they feel is right and correct and the right choice for them.
I told my children that again and again during 2009. And I wasn’t just saying that, I believe that. But I also told them at some point, they’d have to let themselves feel everything, work through it all, heal and forgive. I told them that is the only thing I insist on: they have to forgive.
The horror in one child’s eyes, when they realized I expected them to forgive their dad at some point, was evident! But I stood by it and still do. I told them forgiveness doesn’t mean you have to be their best friend, or that you even have to spend time with them, but you have to let go of the hate. You have to overcome their wrongs against you, forgive them, and rise above the natural inclination to hold a grudge or hate.
I truly believe in forgiveness. For everyone. For everything. Because if you don’t forgive, that hatred can destroy you. And then THAT is the true tragedy. Not the terrible destruction caused by the perpetrator, not everything the perpetrator destroys, but your destruction. The destruction you allow to happen because of the choices made by someone else.
Hatred is like acid. It can do more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the object on which it is poured.
And in my humble opinion, that is no way to live!
THAT is why I believe in forgiveness. And why I’m doing all I can to help my children feel it toward their father and any others who wrong them. Because I want so much for them. I want them to experience all life has to offer. Life is good. Life can be beautiful–even in spite of, or maybe even because of, the hard stuff.
My children have important things to accomplish, greatness to embrace, and oak trees to become. “Today’s mighty oak tree is merely yesterday’s little nut that managed to hold its ground.”
That’s what we’re about at our house. That’s really our bottom line. We’re just a bunch of nuts trying to hold our ground through a very unexpected life!